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PFBlogger Spotlight: Claire of TiredButHappy

Claire is the voice and mind behind TiredButHappy, a personal finance blog that’s been kicking since October 2005, and today we have the chance to get to know her a little bit better. Also, we get to learn a little bit about their online book club Book Cents [3] (“A group of people who met through the Personal Finance blog community to discuss literature.”) which isn’t necessarily about money but often digresses there.

jim: Hi Claire, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Claire: I’m 29. I work in higher education in the Northeast. My partner and I have a 2-year-old son. We own our home, drive an old car, cook from scratch, and generally try to live simply. Aside from writing a blog, my major hobbies are gardening and reading. I used to write fiction and poetry, and I used to travel internationally, but don’t have time for much of that any more. I still travel a lot but it’s mostly to visit family nowadays. No more gallivanting around Southeast Asia for me.

jim: When and why did you start blogging?
Claire: I started my blog in October 2005. I was reading a lot of personal finance advice online and I wanted to be part of the discussion. I was learning a lot but I needed one place to track everything I was learning.

There’s a cadre of men who write good but didactic personal finance blogs. I think those blogs are much-needed sources of information for people (including myself) who are trying to get their finances straightened out. But I’m not really here to tell people how to do things. I’m here to tell folks about my experiences and my financial challenges, and if it helps people to read about it, great. The main point is that it helps me to write about it. Blogging is by nature a narcissistic pastime, I guess, and my blog is no exception.

I’m trying to resist the temptation to let my blog become too much of a mommy blog. Being a mother is only one of the hats I wear. A lot has been written about college planning, raising baby on a budget, etc. I don’t really see myself adding to that body of work very much. Instead, I see myself writing for people in their twenties and thirties who are trying to balance the competing needs of today’s expenses, retirement savings, college savings, all while grappling with careers, relationships, kids, and so on.

jim: What makes your particular perspective unique?
Claire: I think my perspective is unique in several ways. Many of the personal finance bloggers I’ve read are fairly conservative politically. Well, you don’t have to be a raging capitalist to be interested in finance. I’m fairly progressive politically and I’m interested in socially responsible investing and other crunchy things like that. There aren’t too many of us in that camp in the PF blogging world, but I think it’s a growing niche.

I’m also a woman who is more interested in financial planning than my male partner. This might have been really unusual ten years ago, but I think more women are taking the financial reins, or at least sharing them, in domestic relationships now. My blog speaks to couples who are working out this balance of power.

Finally, I’m not married. I have all the trappings of marriage (house, kid, life insurance policies, etc), but my partner and I have chosen not to get married. This puts us in a challenging legal and financial position. I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about the issues and a lot of that thinking ends up in my blog. The content about unmarried family finance is one of my blog’s best features. These posts don’t get a lot of comments, but as I build up a list of posts in this area I’m hoping people looking for resources on this will find my site.

jim: How did you come up with the name of your blog?
Claire: I have a two year old. I have a crazy old house that has no cupboard doors in the kitchen because we’ve been trying to get around to refinishing them ourselves for two years. I have two great day jobs. I have a spouse who is my best friend who I never get to spend enough time with. I garden and read and use the phone and email to keep up with a crazy hodgepodge of family in the US and in Europe. I’ve moved a lot so I have friends all over the country. All this makes me feel overextended and worn out, but I wouldn’t want to give up any of it.

Therefore, I’m tired but happy most of the time.

jim: What’s something no one else in the blogging world knows about you?
Claire: Wow, how about almost everything? Actually, the blogging world probably knows more about me than I think. I’m not very good at being anonymous.

Here’s something: Claire is my middle name.

jim: How about your favorite personal finance book?
Claire: I’ve just started reading personal finance books in the past few months. I’ve started with some of the usual suspects—The Automatic Millionaire [4], The Millionaire Next Door [5], etc. I was sort of unimpressed. I recently read and reviewed Money without Matrimony [6], which is fantastic. But my favorite print-based personal finance source is probably Money Magazine. I just devour those things. I love reading the profiles of different people’s finances. It usually makes me think, sh**, these people make a lot more money than I do. And they spend A LOT more money than I do. But the planners always find a way to help people get out of the messes they’ve gotten themselves into, so it’s just a very feel-good experience for me reading these profiles.
jim: Could you tell me a little about Book Cents [3]?
Claire: Book cents [3] is an online book discussion group conceived by Chrees of Chrees’ World [7]. It’s intended to be a place for PF bloggers to talk about what they’re reading, and for those interested in reading books as a group to do that. It’s not necessarily about the way finances are handled in different books, but since that’s our common interest people may end up talking about money themes more than they might in another book group.

Chrees is actually the real force behind the group. I’ve been a bit of a slacker. We probably should have picked something shorter for our first book. I think only Chrees and me are still plugging away at Vanity Fair. In mid-July, we’re going to start reading Northanger Abbey, so hopefully more folks will join in.

If people want to participate in Book Cents, we’re happy to have them. Folks should feel free to talk about whatever they’re reading, or to suggest books for the group to read. If you want posting priviliges, or want us to link to your blog, please let me or Chrees know.

jim: What financial “mistake” bothers you the most?
Claire: I should have gone to a better college and gotten a more practical degree. I really wasn’t thinking about career opportunities when I went through college. And then I should have tried harder to find a “real” job right after college. I had almost no work experience, so I took a retail job just to have something. I really should have gone after a job in publishing or something like that. As it was, I was in sort of a never-ending spiral of entry-level jobs for a couple years, until I decided the only way out was to go to graduate school. I was lucky and got great scholarships, so I got through grad school with no debt, but now several years out of grad school I’m still only making what a lot of new college graduates make.
jim: How about your best decision?
Claire: I opened an IRA right out of college. I wasn’t always very good about putting in money out of my paychecks, but I did put windfalls in there. My retirement savings are not spectacular, but they’re pretty healthy today because of those early deposits.
jim: What is your favorite personal finance blog and why?
Claire: Yikes. Only one? I don’t really want to say. I do have some favorites. Some blogs I visit almost every day, but it changes pretty often which ones I’m frequenting at any given time.
jim: And, lastly, if your blog ended today, how would you like people to remember it?
Claire: Maybe somebody will continue to use some frugal little trick that I use myself and have written about on my blog. Or maybe somebody in an unmarried relationship will read *Tired but happy* and go out and get themselves the necessary legal documents and insurance policies. Then, years later, if something happens to them or to their partner they’ll think of my blog and be glad they read it.